Santa’s in town and he means business…


Ahh, the sound of construction. I peer through the curtains to see in full daylight the monstrous new rail terminal taking it’s weird and wonderful shape. Breakfast winged its way to my room in lightening speed as if I had my own breakfast butler. Clearly the same man that took my order was knocking on my door within FIVE minutes. The only trouble was that half of the order was incorrect, never mind, mere triviality, with much smiling and broken English he reversed out of the room bowing politely and wishing me a good day. A good day? By jove, he’s right…I set off for the gym where I found Richard at the tail end of his sweat-fest. As it’s the first gym sesh for me this tour, I took it easy and leapt onto a concept rower. Familiar, as I have one at home and as my brother Dan spent a lot of his life rowing in competition, I tried to remember at least some the tips he’d given me. “Use the legs, straight back, keep the SPM down to 26”. A mild sweat later and onto the treadmill for a brisk walk. Why run when you can walk?

Back to the room, diary complete, and it’s mid afternoon and Ian, Mike and I meet in the lobby for a stroll in the bracing Autumn air. Walking alongside one of the many canals in Holland, I was reminded of a useless fact I happened upon last tour, that 25,000 bicycles are fished out of these waterways each year. A little further web-delving revealed that number is a quarter of all bikes stolen in the country every year and out of the 700,000 bikes in Holland, that’s one in seven! So, if my maths is correct, one in 28 of all Dutch bikes will end up in the drink. This is the sort of stuff that one has time to properly dwell on whilst on the road.

I think this says ‘Dumping of bicycles prohibited’…



Bike retrieval system…




Just around the corner we bumped into this little fellow.



Who needs art galleries? – Santa Claus, the renowned sculpture by Paul McCarthy was installed here in 2008. Though Paul McCarthy created this artwork (2001-2005) especially for Rotterdam city centre, Rotterdam Municipal Council deemed it unsuitable for installation in the public space.

Santa’s self-criticism
Standing six metres tall, this black-patinated bronze based on hackneyed depictions of Father Christmas and garden gnomes brandishes a Christmas tree/buttplug in his right hand and dangles a bell in the other. Father Christmas is the ideal butt of McCarthy’s social critique: the perfect symbol of sentimentality and convivial good cheer, of magnificent commercial success and consumerism, a symbol of and/or for the USA. Using all the force he can muster as an artist, in his work McCarthy insistently attacks such symbols, and in his films he often plays the role of the target himself. This Father Christmas, a somewhat ‘formless’ massivity for Rotterdam with its unmistakable nod to the Statue of Liberty, is a perplexing object: the heavy boots, the black bell, the fixed grin of a garden gnome along with a phallus-like form – black instead of the festive red and green one might expect – held languidly on high. Father Christmas groans under the burden of his own mass and the ballast of his worldly goods. Santa Claus is a monumental exaggeration of Father Christmas and gnome, a ‘devotional image’ (Andachtsbild) for the lethargic consumer of today. It is a topical artwork that displays a rather gruesome and humoristic luxuriousness for the public space.

Back at the hotel, senses mildly assaulted, I swiftly packed my ‘shit’ into the Briggs and Riley suitcase just as Pete Mackay knocked on the door for the 3:45 bag collection. Pete has been spending some serious time working on his photography skills and has been snapping some fabulous shots…here’s a few examples from the day’s sound-check at the Ahoy.





The short drive to the Ahoy was a slow crawl through traffic…John and Mike on the bus..

Another fabulous show, another fantastic crowd (standing) and a long drive ahead of us to Luxembourg. Jim once again supplied the musical extravaganza that is his playlist and Carl, our driver made good time. We were at the hotel in an eerily foggy, quiet Luxembourg at 1:30am.

These pics sent in by Henk Pestman…